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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  September 29, 2012 9:00am-11:00am PDT

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voted for it but for the democratic senate that would it passed and mitt romney said at the time were he president and this passed he would sign it into law. sign into law the requirement y'all come up with $6,400 a year more for the same benefits. and now they say to us, oh, no, no, no. joe, we don't have that plan anymore. well, guess what? they got a message to the american people. they said we got a new plan. new plan. that's going to work better and save medicare. that plan, though, a harvard study comes out and says, that new plan still a voucher, would cost somebody 55 years old right now by the time they get on it $60,000 a year more over the life of medicare. ladies and gentlemen, the reason i bother to tell you this is, the reason i bother to tell you this is, the fact of the matter is it goes to motive.
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it goes to motive. can you imagine? can those of you who know me? can you imagine me voting for a proposal adding $6,400 a year to the cost of medicare or 60,000 over the life of it? ladies and gentlemen, the neighborhood i come from -- i mean this sincerely -- the neighborhood i come from, that would mean the people getting medicare would not be able to get medicare. they would not get nearly the benefits they have now. i don't know anybody in the neighborhood i come from that has an extra $6400 a year for health care when they're seniors. and i don't know. >> all right, everyone. listening to joe biden with the talking points there. he first went after representative paul ryan the gop vice-presidential candidate and his budget proposals. that said he's also going after medicare. given the demographic makeup of the sunshine state, which has a large already older population, it becomes no surprise that the latest polls show the president
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with a lead in the sunshine state. now at the same time paul ryan is campaigning himself in new hampshire today. the republican vice-presidential nominee met with voters in the city of derry just a short time ago. >> all these promises were made in the idea of hope and change. and people -- it sounded pretty good. but when the rhetoric went aside and the time to act occurred, the ideas are the old ideas that have failed time and again. >> as for mitt romney, he spent some time in pennsylvania on friday. and despite trailing the president as much as ten points in some polls, governor romney made this bold prediction. >> it is an honor to be here with you and to be here with these cadets and to be at this extraordinary place that so many presidents past have visited. and well, a president future is visiting today. >> and when i become president of the united states. >> i'm going to win pennsylvania and i'm going to become the next president of the united states. >> we'll be talking with our political journalists about all that in just a moment.
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today there's reaction and a rare reversal from u.s. intelligence official on what happened in libya. officials now admit they got it wrong. the director of national intelligence office says "we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information." and the intelligence community now believes it was a "deliberate and organized attack" which left the u.s. ambassador and three others dead. now members of congress from both parties are demanding answers. on the ground in benghazi, investigators can't even get to the scene. nbc's mike viqueira is joining us from the white house with more on this. mike, how big a deal is this reversal? >> reporter: well, it's very controversial and potentially a big deal. the question all along is ever since those september 11th attacks what caused them, what was the motivation for the people who killed four americans including the american ambassador. and at the beginning as everybody is well aware at this point, the white house insisted that these were spontaneous demonstrations, a reaction to that anti-islamic film, much
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like the demonstrations that had happened just hours earlier in cairo and subsequently swept through the muslim world from the middle east to indonesia. they denied that there was any terrorism link involved. from the beginning, republicans and other critics have questioned that. they said that the president and the administration have not wanted to admit a terror link in an election year around 9/11. they say that intelligence warning of such an attack was potentially missed and that the administration frankly dropped the ball. the white house fought back against that but in subsequent days they said it was self-evident changing their tune somewhat that it was a terrorist attack. and now an official release from the spokesman for the director of national intelligence, i'll read a little bit more of which you've already read, alex. "we do assess that some of of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with or sympathetic to al qaeda." so it's not come full circle but a 180 from where the administration started on this issue. >> we saw a picture of that scene the charred debris and
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what was left. why haven't officials been able to investigate that further now? >> reporter: it's a chaotic situation there. it's not somalia in the early 1990s but there are no sent al authority. there are militias that run different portions of that the sun. secretary of state clinton was there late last year. i happened to be on that trip. a perfect example. she experienced it first hand. got off at the airport. one militia group greeted her, carried her about ten miles. they accompanied her with technicals, those pickup trucks and other vehicles with large caliber weapons loaded on the back. about ten miles after that another group. so it was all divided into sections. the country, there's no central governing authority. it's hard to get into benghazi and investigate exactly what happened. >> thank you very much for giving us a good view of what's going on there, mike viqueira. for more on all this i'm joined by "washington post" reporter and reporter for roll call. welcome. david i want to get to the
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situation in libya with you. is there any regret inside the white house how they've handled this? >> i don't know if regret is the right word. but they have made it more difficult on themselves. they said in the early hours after this thing happened, this incident happened there was a lot of things they were trying to figure out. they didn't have all the answers. they were still investigations to be done. but since then and since this has started to dribble out here and there, the white house has changed its tune as mike said. the press secretary and hillary clinton have now called it a terrorist attack. the president has not done so yet publicly. what the white house has not really done is come out and given a full accounting maybe from the top. and probably because of the politics. and that's left a big open forgt republican side. and they continue for mitt romney to his surrogates continue to hit the white house. i think they're going to keep on this string. >> i've got to say, having covered breaking news and the chaos that can ensue in situations like this, you have to understand what that is like. but do you think that the white house was pressured because of the severity of this attack, david? you had a u.s. ambassador killed here.
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do they feel pressured to get some answers out there and they just jumped the gun before they had all the facts? >> absolutely. the romney camp says mitt romney got criticized for critiquing the president's reaction to all this when he criticized the cairo reaction. but the same thing happened on the white house side. because in the wee hours after the attack they sort of lumped it all together with this video. now a lot more information has come out. so again, that story line sort of gotten grained. now it's starting to change. and the longer you go on these kinds of things before really coming clean and saying here's all the things we know really publicly the longer the story is going to keep going. >> thanks for that. cher, let's talk about polls now. the latest nbc "washington post" marist poll shows mitt romney is trailing in all nine battle ground states. what is the best spin the romney camp can put on this? >> well, they can blame the poll numbers. they can say that oh, they oversampled democrats. they oversam pulled republicans. a couple weeks ago they were blaming the convention bump saying it was going to be a quote sugar high and it would
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fade. now they're looking forward to the debates as really their last best chance to make aim pressing on a lot of these swing state voters. they're saying there's still time for them to recover and mitt romney can still make his argument in the battle ground states. >> david, you have the "washington post" article talking about the debates in which you quote "republican strategists fretting over obama's recent rise, said the debates could be the last best chance for romney to deliver a decisive blow, change the narrative and steady his campaign." that's quite a tall order, david. sounds like a level of desperation there and desperation then leads to mistakes as we've seen in the past. is that a worry at all for the romney camp? i've heard some analysts say that he needs a hail mary. i mean, is it that dramatic? >> absolutely. the romney camp won't come out and say that. everybody sort of tries to downplay expectations before these things. all eyes are on romney. he's trailing in the polls nationally and in the swing states. he said to his supporters, hey, you know, when i name a running mate and when i'm at my convention you're going to see the bumps.
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you haven't seen sustained bumps. this is his chance to do it. he's running out of chances. 60 member people could watch these debates. this is a big chance for him. >> the challenger gets a butch just for sharing a stage with the president in the first debate. any chance the romney camp could play it safe this first time out on wednesday? >> they probably will play it safe. remember they have three chances over the course of october. obviously different formats, different topics each time. but i wouldn't be surprised if you see them play it safe the first time out of the gates, especially given where they are in the polls. and that's interesting because a lot of conservatives right now are calling for mitt romney to take a risk, to think outside of the box and really do something dramatic. but given the way the romney campaign runs their team, i doubt they'll do anything that risky. >> what about as we were just watching both of you, and i'll ask you first, joe heard joe biden i'm heard at the top. he is hitting home the medicare mess naj florida. is that a winning strategy?
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>> you know, it's worked in the past in election cycles we saw it pretty effective in 2010 when republicans used it against democrats. this cycle democrats especially in the house are trying to use it against republicans. i think it's effective with certain segments of the population. you mention the joe biden is in florida. that is exactly one of those populations you're talking about. groups and electorates and voting blocks that are 60 or 55 plus. that's where it's really going to resonate. >> david, can the romney camp send in a paul ryan the way obama sends in his vice-president? can he be that effective in the state of florida? >> he's already done that, alex. i wouldn't be surprised to see him again. paul ryan has brought his own mother with him on some of these speaking engagements in florida and elsewhere. they still will. they have an argument of their own that obama took money out of medicare to pass his health care plan. so they're going to keep on that message, not giving up. i will say i did recently talk to some white house officials. they're feeling very confident in florida. his campaign did a big ad buy there because they do see
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internal numbers breaking their way right now. so i think the romney camp does need to get in there and try to shore it up. >> okay, david, shara, good to see you as always. gary johnson joins me next to talk about his conspiracy theory about the presidential debates. also mitt romney and the middle class. is it too late to make a connection? that's coming up in strategy talks. keep it here on "weekends with alex witt." [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso. your new light creamy potato with bacon & cheese soup says it's 100 calories a serving. that's right. in what world do potatoes, bacon and cheese add up to 100 calories? your world. my world. ♪ [ whispers ] real bacon... creamy cheese... [ whispers ] 100 calories... say it again... [ whispers ] 100 calories... ma'am, hello? ma'am
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right there. well, in four days president obama and mitt romney will square off in the first presidential debate of the election cycle. a third man is fighting for his say on that stage wednesday night in denver. do not expect to see former new mexico governor gary johnson flanking the president and mr. romney despite the best efforts of his attorneys. the libertarian candidate is that third man. he has now filed an anti-trust lawsuit saying it's a conspiracy he's not invited to the debates. gary johnson joins me now. good day to you, governor. nice to see you again. >> hey. thank you for having me on, alex. >> well, before we talk about this lawsuit i want to put out the numbers here. among likely voters nationally speaking when you're the mix with president obama and mitt romney you get 6% of the vote. that is the best you have polled nationally. but the bar is set by the presidential election commission. it stands at 15%. so do you expect to get there at any point? >> well, let me state the obvious here, alex.
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do you hear my name six times for every time you hear obama or romney's name 100 times? >> no. >> you hear my name one time for every 5,000 times you hear these guys. if i were just being given that six-time mention for every 100 times these guys were mentioned, you know what? i wouldn't be at 6, i'd be at 11, 18, i'd be the next president of the united states. but it is what it is. and when it comes to presidential debate commission, look. presidential debate commission are made up of republicans and democrats. they're a private organization. they're not a governmental organization. they have no interest whatsoever in seeing a third party on stage. >> all right. so since it appears wednesday night will not happen for you, after that debate there are two more. that's october 16th as well as the 23rd. might you make any of those? >> well, we're going to go down kicking and screaming on all this stuff. i'm just going to offer up a prediction. whether obama or romney are re-elected or are elected, we're
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going to have a heightened police state. we're going to find ourselves in a continued state of perpetual war, military interventions. we're going to find ourselves with continued spending and debts that's not sustainable. >> okay. this anti-trust lawsuit you have there. what is your best argument to get you up on stage with the other two candidates? >> well, just that when my name is included -- take i don't know how many watching have gone online and with 3.5 million people taken this 36 questionnaire that determines the next president of the united states. as of today in a 3.5 million person sample, i've got 230 electoral votes, obama has 330, romney has zero. and i think the issue with obama is not what he says. i think that what he says is -- there's just nothing to disagree with. i just argue that the reality doesn't match up at all with the
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word words. >> here's the thing. you have to say this web site is online and it can be skewed. if that's your best argument, gairks honestly? what's the likelihood you're going to be up on the stage? >> well, not good, alex. this is a stacked deck. i mean, look. that's just speaking honestly. that's the reality. there is no vested interest by the two-party system to see a third party on the debate stage. this was established after perot really to prevent a perot from ever being on stage again. and if i were on stage, that's the only opportunity really i have to actually win this election. and i told you before, one of my real concerns is peaking too early. so we're hanging in there. >> all right. well, i should say also the election commission has set that bar that you've got to be getting 15% of the vote. right now you're getting 6%. that is the bar that you need to surpass to get on that stage. when you were removed from the
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poll that i mentioned earlier, the obama-biden ticket led the romney-ryan ticket by just five points. check it out. with you on the poll, the lead is 9 for the president. now, your name, gairks will be on the ballot in at least 47 states. do you agree you're going to be pulling more votes from mitt romney? >> no. actually, these polls are all subject to margin of error. but really it's from both sides. i'm more liberal than obama when it comes to a lot of social issues. i'm certainly more conservative than romney when it comes to dollars and cents. i think that's where the majority of people in this country fall in. and who's being -- which party is representing what i think are the majority of americans that are fiscally responsible and socially accepting? well, that's just the philosophy i'm going to argue i continue to argue they have a resume' that not only suggests can i do this job but i can really do a good job at it. >> you know, there's a poll they saw in ohio in which your
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presence turns a one-point lead by president obama into a seven-point lead for the president. so gary, would it be gratifying at least for you if you just ended up being a spoiler in this election? >> well, i hope to get labelled as a spoiler. that would just be more attention for what i'm having to say. what i'm having to say is look, let's not bomb iran. that would be a third voice on stage. let's get out of afghanistan tomorrow. bring the troops home. that would be a third voice on stage. let's end the drug war. that would be a third voice on stage. let's balance the federal budget tomorrow. that would be a third voice on stage. let's eliminate income tax, corporate tax, abolish the irs. let's replace all that with one federal consumption tax. that's the answer to american jobs. that's the voice that's not going to get heard. i'm just going to suggest that the debates are going to be tweed el de, tweed el dumb, electing either one and just be more of the same. >> can i ask you had you run from the beginning as a libertarian as opposed to republican, might you have then been on stages and debates where
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they had at points nine republican candidates and you weren't one of them? >> well, i'm going to continue to argue that i was just excluded from the process, very unfairly. but it is what it is. i thought it was going to really be hard to marginalize two people on stage talking about the issues. and that was ron paul himself. but i didn't find myself marginalized. i just found myself excluded in december i look at my crystal ball. i didn't see ron paul becoming the nominee of the republican party. so where does the voice go for libertarians? that offers up a third choice in all these categories? >> gary, i have to ask you. you are getting 6% of the vote. so could you -- i mean right now. but in polls. but could you consider running for a different office where some of your ideas might be able to be implemented? because you do have some good ideas. what about the senate or something like that? >> so the senate.
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the senate is just a job of bell yig up to the trough. that's the root of all of our evils, congress that go to washington to bring home the bacon. at the end of the day i think that senators, congresspeople get re-elected on the basis of how they do when it comes to bringing home the bacon. that's the problem is this is will have to have mutual sacrifice on the part of all of us. the gravity of what's facing this country. democrats and republicans right now arguing over who's going to spend more money on medicare when we have to slash medicare spending or we're going to find ourselves without any health care at all. we're going to find ourselves in a monetary collapse, which it's going to be the result of borrowing and printing to the tune of [ inaudible ]. >> well, gary johnson, you're a voice we very much appreciate hearing from on this network and on my shows. thank you very much for your time. >> thank you very much as always. office politics with savannah guthrie. what she told me about covering sarah palin in 2008 and the grind of being on the campaign trail. but now to number three on
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our list of the top five trending stories. 2012 turning out to be remarkably quiet year for tornadoes. so far about a 750 tornadoes have been reported. but at this time last year, about 1500 have formed. meteorologists say the same weather pattern to blame for the devastating drought is a factor in the quiet tornado season. [ laughing ] [ laughing ] [ laughing ] [ laughing ] ♪
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[ male announcer ] now you can take a photo right from video, so you'll never miss the perfect shot. [ hikers laughing, commenting ] at&t introduces the htc one x. now $99.99. rethink possible. in today's tech watch, shopping by phone. a new survey shows 28% of americans this year have used their cell phones to buy something. that's more than double the percentage from just last year when about half of adult mobile shoppers aged 34 or younger. tis the season to give that is to presidential campaigns. first in number ones the states where the presidential candidates get the most donations. no wonder why they keep going to california. open says the golden state has given the most so far. nearly $71 million. about 41 million has gone to the
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president, the rest to mitt romney. texas comes in second with 48 million in donor dollars. 1.5 million more than third place new york. yet another ranking of america's best cities, in this bloomberg list san francisco gets high marks for culture, clean air and a good economy. a strong job market makes seattle a deserving number two. the nation's capitol coming in third thanks in part to its culture and its parks. those are your number ones here on "weekends with alex witt." bob...
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oh, hey alex. just picking up some, brochures, posters copies of my acceptance speech. great! it's always good to have a backup plan, in case i get hit by a meteor. wow, your hair looks great. didn't realize they did photoshop here. hey, good call on those mugs. can't let 'em see what you're drinking. you know, i'm glad we're both running a nice, clean race. no need to get nasty. here's your "honk if you had an affair with taylor" yard sign. looks good. [ male announcer ] fedex office. now save 50% on banners. just past the half hour today. republican vice-president nominee paul ryan is on the campaign trail in two swing states. earlier today he held a rally in new hampshire, his third trip to that state. his sister joined him at the event along with 700 supporters. he talked about the economy and
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blamed slow growth on the president. >> when president obama came into office, he inherited a tough situation. there are no two ways about it. but the problem is, the obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped. it failed because it was passed! the economy is barely growing. and the president he has no ideas for how to grow it again. he's basically saying i want to do more of the same. i want another run at stimulus with a big tax increase on job creators on top. >> nbc's ron mott has more from the ground in new hampshire. hello to you, ron. >> reporter: well, good day from derry, hammon, the first of two stops on the campaign trail today for paul ryan. he will visit ohio this afternoon. two battle ground states that mitt romney very much wants to win and perhaps needs to win as this race gets into the fifth week before the election day. now paul ryan today hammered the president hard as he's done the past few weeks. that message back on that wall. "we can't afford four more
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years" of what he says are the president's failed economic policies. he says the president promised that he would cut the deficit. it has ballooned. he said the president promised to keep unemployment under 8% if the congress passed the stimulus package. unemployment rate has been over 8% for 43 straight months. that's been the message that paul ryan has been carrying for unfortunately for the campaign mitt romney trails president obama here in new hampshire rather by seven points. in ohio by eight points. he's got a lot of work to do between now and then. next week paul ryan will hit some more battle ground states starting monday in iowa. in between he will also prepare for his debate on october 11th between vice-president joe biden in connecticut. mitt romney and president obama are down for the weekend getting ready to square off in denver for the first of three presidential debates on wednesday. that's the latest from this chunk of the campaign trail. let's send it back to you. >> okay. ron mott. bob seger music background music there. in today's strategy talk, president obama and mitt romney head into wednesday night's debate with the president leading in the latest polls in
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all nine battle ground states. at the same time, governor romney's favorability rate rgz in the low 40s which is almost 10 points lower than president obama's and three points lower than former president george w. bush at this point. voters in several swing states also say they believe president obama cares more about the needs and problems they are currently facing. this is a snapshot here of florida, ohio and pennsylvania. when you look at which candidate voters think will implement policies favoring the middle class, president obama comes out ahead of governor romney in those same three states. joining me now for strategy talk, msnbc political analyst and republican strategist and publisher of rich i'll begin with you here. how frustrating are these numbers for the romney camp and the gop? is there any buyer's remorse? do you still think there is time without some dramatic event to turn this around? >> yeah. i disagree with the crew you had on earlier. i don't think that there is a hail mary necessary on wednesday
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night. i think one of the things that the romney team is looking for is simply for governor romney to reassure those same middle class voters you're talking about that he does understand what they need and does want the same things for them that they want. but in any poll you'd rather have the bigger number. there's no question about that. >> yeah, of course. karen, positive numbers here for the president. what does the obama camp really make of them? are they cautiously optimistic or are they just trying to put these numbers out of their mind? >> i think they're being very realistic about this. i think rich will appreciate this. we have to remember that polls are a snapshot in time. that's it. we cannot ever read too much into it whether it's a national poll or state-wide poll. they're good guideposts. they give us good information. certainly as rich said you'd rather have the bigger number. but i think they're very realistic about the point that there may be some inflation, although we don't think that that is the issue. i don't believe in the
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conspiracy theories that have been floated this week. but again they recognize it's going to be a lot of hard work between now and elections day. and look, i do believe that governor romney needs to have a very strong performance at the debate. and if he does and if he's then able to be consistent every day thereafter he could turn things around. so i think again obama's team is not taking anything for granted. >> karen is exactly right, alex. let me just say. this the romney team went for, what three weeks, 3 1/2 weeks, never got to talk about what they wanted to talk about. some of that was self-inflicted, some wasn't. but from the time the hurricane was they thought was aiming at tampa they went a long time before they could got about -- they got a chance to talk about the economy. i think karen is exactly right. coming out of the debate i think there has to be a renewed effort on the part of the romney campaign to no matter what other forces are going on to stick with the economy and see if they can sell that. >> is there any thought that the romney camp, rich, takes a look at all these numbers and says any way you look at this election it's going to be
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historic, you're either going to re-elect a president who has higher unemployment numbers than any elected president in his -- re-elected president in history. or you're going to have a guy who gets elected who has very low likability and favorability ratings. i mean, is there anything to that that they're just sayings to saying toss all these numbers aside. don't pay attention to them. >> you have to pay attention to them. the problem with comparing these, these things happen so infrequently, once every four years. and the circumstances are always completely different from four years, eight years, ten years, 100 years ago. and so making those kinds of comparisons don't mean anything. i was thinking about the unemployment numbers this morning. and it just seems to me that the numbers have been so high for so long that it's like high gasoline prices. the first time they went to 4 bucks there was panic in the streets. this year they sit around 3.85 and whatever it is and people go well that's the way it is. >> new norm kind of. >> well, i would just add to that they think that part of what we're seeing in at least in
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some of the tracking polls which have been sort of tracking this over a period of time is that in general people are feeling better about the direction that the country is going in because they're feeling more optimistic. and i think part of that has to do with the fact that having president obama out there talking about his ideas, talking about his plan, i think people can look at that and say okay do you think that's going to work and that makes you feel a little bit more optimistic even if this exact moment it's not where you want it to be. i think that's part of the dynamic of a campaign as well. >> and if the -- we have two more unemployment reports before election day. and that's one of the reasons they think karen is the point she made is correct. they're not smoking the victory cigars in chicago just yet. >> well, and the labor statistics just reassessed their numbers. they actually have been a little bit higher than we'd previously thought. >> i want to play something for you both. this is the latest obama camp ad on mr. romney's 47% remark. you're probably not going to want to hear this, rich, but let's play it.
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>> [ inaudible ] they believe they are victims. they believe the government has the responsibility to care for them. who believe that they're entitled to health care, food, housing, you name it. and they will vote for this president no matter what. so my job is not to worry about those people. >> i got to tell you, we've tossed this around with my production team. and there are few who don't think that this is one of the most damning ads out there. this is one that's going to stick around. how in the world? because you put these words to faces. rich, how does the romney camp counter this? >> i think you can't. you can't counter it. you just have to try to change the discussion. i mean, four years ago when the president then senator obama made that bone-headed remark about pennsylvanians he went on to win pennsylvania in the general election. so these things have sort of a half life. and we'll see whether it still has that kind of effect as we
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get into the last week or two. but it is damaging because it does speak to the mean that people attach to romney. >> here's the difference though, rich, in fairness. the president made that comment at a fundraiser in san francisco, and the point that he was making to a group of liberals was, we have to go to those places in pennsylvania and talk to everybody. because if i'm going to be president of this country, i have to be president of everyone. we can't disparage anyone. that was the full message. in this instance, part of what's so devastating for romney is the lack of respect for that 47%. such a disrespect for the work that people do, for how people live their lives and sort of the lack of understanding of who this country really is at this moment in the 21st century that he is seeking to be the president. hold on, rich. i also think that part of the problem is you play those ads in some of those very same states where you've also played the ads where you see real people who lost their jobs, who lost everything when bain came to
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town and the investors walked away with cash in their pockets while people had nothing, it really plays into this narrative that romney is not somebody who understands what people go through, working people go through. >> rich, we are out of time you get a quick last word here. >> i think those are difficult times. i don't remember now you've had four years to fix the pitch forks thing so i think you've had a chance to fix that. but i think what it will come down to is whether or not romney can get back on an economic message and convince people that he's got the right ideas to move it forward. if they can he's got a shot at winning this. if he can't then he won't. >> okay. more to come, guys. thank you so much, karen, rich, good to see you both. she was a witness to presidential history while covering the landmark 2008 election. in this hour's office politics, today's show cohost savannah guthrie talks about the grit and grind and lasting images from the campaign trail. >> 2008 was a really special year for a variety of reasons. first of all you had a contested
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primary in both parties. it was wide open. second of all you had on the democratic side two potentially historic candidates. either the first female president or the first african-american president. you had a primary that was so long and so drawn out. remember we all had to learn the rules of how many delegates and the super delegates. so you tried to repress that. but no, it was incredible that the primary went on all the way until june when the normal course of things is for it to be decided after super tuesday if not long after that. so 2012 doesn't have any of those things. but it's still an interesting election. the issues are huge, not just education which we just did, but of course the economy. now we see foreign policy becoming more a part of the election. so i think it's fascinating to cover a presidential election. >> sure. >> it's a privilege. and i think for us i'm sure that's one of the reasons you got into journalism. it's certainly one of the reasons i did. >> absolutely. another element of that
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election, though, was the sarah palin factor which you covered. what was that like? >> i covered sarah palin almost from the very beginning. my bosses called me and said, you know what, get to alaska. we want you to be in alaska by the time sarah palin delivers her address to the republican national convention, which was that following week. and from that point forward, i was covering sarah palin. she came back to alaska on her campaign plane. at that point i jumped on and we flew around for the next whatever it was, couple months. it was a very interesting time, and interesting story. here's somebody who is so new to the national scene. but i will say, and this is something that sarah palin has talked about a lot, on her campaign plane she did not interact a lot with the reporters. she has later said she wanted to. she felt that they didn't let her talk to the press as much as she would have liked. to i don't know if the mccain campaign would agree with that. but the bottom line is, we didn't have a ton of interaction with her.
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>> with regard to the campaign trail overall, though, how much of a grind is that? >> it's crazy. i think -- i don't know if this is helen thomas's quote but i've heard it attributed to her. the only thing worse than covering a campaign is not covering a campaign. the idea of being, yes, it's really hard. it's incredibly grueling. but if you're a reporter, you want to be there. you really do. but no question, you're on this plane. the candidate goes to five states a day, then so do you. you don't know what state you're in it's not like you're staying in fancy hotels. sometimes you get to. you'd be in a town and you'd think oh, wait this is a pretty good hotel. >> nice yeah. >> sometimes it wasn't at all. a lot of times they have -- you had to turn your luggage in so it can get on the plane the night before. so you'd have to kind of set out your pajamas and then whatever you were going to wear the next day and your toiletries and have that ready and stuff it. >> in a purse. >> a big bag. and your suitcase would be gone. it was an amazing experience.
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but it's exhausting but also exhilarating. >> how about covering politics, covering law or practice law potentially? what do you like the most? >> i love covering politics. i have to say, there is in my book nothing better than covering a really good trial. and actually the first year when i left the white house in the first year i was on "the today show" i was covering legal stories a lot. and i loved that. doing that again. and i realized, okay, it kind of is my first love. i love to cover trials. i love covering the supreme court. i'm just fascinated but the issues. it's great to get to do a little bit of both. and sometimes they intersect. and that happened at the white house sometimes where there would be stories where it helped to have a legal background. >> well, tomorrow at this time savannah will be able to tell us which "today show" segments are the most difficult for her to handle. it's funny, trust me. number four on our first five web stories. this year's harvest moon. the moon will be bright and full
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share everything by turning your smartphone into a mobile hotspot for up to 8 wifi-enabled devices at no extra charge. like the new droid razr m by motorola only $99.99. the latest quinnipiac university "new york times" cbs news poll shows obama leading in ohio, florida and pennsylvania. it matches our own marist polling which shows the president leading in all nine swing states. joining me now, peter brown, the assistant director of the quinnipiac university polling institute. peter, i want to ask you about historically speaking have the polls been largely accurate? >> yes. the polls have been quite accurate over time. now, everybody likes to point to the 1948 election when the polls said that thomas dewey would win the election and he didn't. harry truman did. that was 40 years ago when polling was in its infancy.
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polls are very good at telling you what the situation is at the time they're taken, not a week from thursday, not two months from tomorrow. they're good for then. >> that snapshot, right. some of the gop complain the pollsters are oversampling democrats in the swing states. are they overestimating democratic turnout for november? can you explain how this works? >> sure. the key is that we and most of the other major polls do not weight by party. that is, there is no standard when we start the poll to know that where any x number of republicans, x number of democrats. it is what it is. that's because party identification is a movable thing. people change their views and values over time. and we ask them when we poll them, do you consider yourself a republican, a democrat, an independent, or a member of some other party. now, there are characteristics we do wait for. because we raweight for age, ra and gender. that's because there is a standard to compare it to.
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and that's the u.s. census bureau data. so that we know what a good poll should show in the percentage of women in the state, african-americans, et cetera. >> okay. how about turnout? is there a prediction from both parties that you can give us? >> no. again, we don't do that. we base the party i.d. on what people tell us. we don't weight it. >> how about this? do negative polls have some sort of a dampening down effect on the party that is behind for those voters to depress their enthusiasm to even get out there and vote? >> you can argue that one round you can argue it square. people behind may be discouraged or also may be energized. it depends on each situation. >> okay. where are you finding the most voter enthusiasm and why do you think that is? >> well, for most of this year republicans have been more enthusiastic about voting than democrats. but lately it's gotten very close on that measurement. so the democrat enthusiasm has increased. >> okay.
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what about the rising unemployment rates in five of the swing states? i mean, the president leads your poll on who can better handle the economy. what do you think is behind that? >> well, it's a very interesting thing going on in some of the key states. specifically virginia and ohio. because in those states, mr. romney's argument that mr. obama is responsible for a bad economy doesn't work. ohio is more prosperous now than it's been for decades. and in virginia the unemployment rate is less than 6%. mr. romney probably can't win without either of those two states. and the economic conditions in those states, which are much better than the rest of the country, is really seems to be hurting him and helping the president. >> okay. peter brown, thanks for the interesting chat. i appreciate it. now to number five on our list of the top five trending stories. the new intrusion into kate middleton's private life. more photographs of the duchess of cambridge have surfaced. a danish magazine has published photos showing middleton
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we're just four days from the first of three presidential debates. that first one in denver this wednesday will focus on domestic issues with. half of the 90-minute showdown to be devoted to the economy. joining us now, the "wall street journal." let's talk about the expectations for wednesday's debate. you wrote in a recent article "the obama campaign wants to set a low bar for the president's performance." why? >> it's amazing. it's the one time of year when you hear party strategists essentially downplaying their own guy. what they're trying to do is essentially lower expectations for his performance on wednesday. so if you don't expect him to do a great job when he does a pretty good job or when he does a great job then you're all the more impressed. >> downplay and then of course use superlatives in describing
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the opposition. yesterday on nbc's andrea mitchell reports, senator john kerry praised mitt romney's debate prowess and the president's limitations going into the debate. let's take a listen to this. >> it's tough i think for a president who hasn't had primaries, hasn't been out there, hasn't been debating in four years, then he only had very few debates that weren't as consequential. is the campaign seriously concerned about the president not being prepared here, laura? are these pre-emptive excuses? >> i don't think they're concerned about his being unprepared. for starters as president he is up-to-date on every world issue, any issue out there. they have spent a lot of time preparing for understanding mitt romney's record and understanding the lines of attack that are likely to come from romney. so i don't think there's going to be any question about preparation. they are concerned about some aspects of the president's performance. he does tend to sort of be a little professor didn't like. go on in settings where there is
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no stop watch timing his spons. so he needs to be quicker, he needs to be a little more of a sound bite deliverer than he is in his normal practice. i think they're a little concerned about that. but i do think it's in their interests to upgrade the concerns and downplay the confidence level. >> kind of hard to be pithy about medicare, though, i got to say. you quote obama campaign manager jim messina saying "governor romney is a very skilled debater and the governor has the advantage." are you buying that? that the obama campaign and his supporters really believe that? >> you know, a little yes a little bit no. they point out historically that the challenger usually is viewed as having done better in the first debate. that's partly because there's a certain amount of elevation that happens just when you have the challenger on the same stage as the president. they're there as equals. and that is elevating for the challenger. having said that, i don't think that they are really prepared for defeat here. i think that they are sort of cranking that up as much as possible. >> okay. come see us again.
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thanks so much. >> you're welcome. early voting in iowa. a live report on the turnout when "weekends with alex witt" returns.
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if you think something's wrong... see your doctor. ask about gynecologic cancer. and get the inside knowledge. good day to all of you. just past 1:00 p.m. in the east, 10:00 a.m. out west. we'll get to what's happening right now out there. front page politics and new today. the fight for florida rachets up a notch with vice-president joe biden campaigning in the sunshine state today, highlighting the differences between president obama and mitt romney on medicare. >> mitt romney said at the time, were he president and this passed he would sign it into law. sign into law the requirement y'all come up with $6,400 a year more for the same benefits. and now they say to us, oh, no no no no. joe, we don't have that plan anymore. >> well, paul ryan's firing back in another battle ground state today, rallying voters in new
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hampshire. he took aim at president obama's policies over the past four years. >> all these promises were made in the idea of hope and change. and people -- it sounded pretty good. but when the rhetoric went aside and the time to act occurred, the ideas are the old ideas that have failed time and again. >> and the latest gallup daily tracking poll shows president obama leading mitt romney nationally by about six points. joining me now, msnbc contributor and reporter for real clear politics. with a welcome to the two of you we'll go ladies first with you, erin. can job e biden be more effecti in florida than paul ryan with that medicare message we heard? >> he might be. we're seeing in the polls in florida that president obama and joe biden have actually started to pull further ahead than mitt romney and paul ryan on medicare. yes, that message may very well work and so far it has.
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>> do you think, erin, mitt romney bought too much baggage on the medicare issue when he took on paul ryan? is that emerging or not? >> there is some concern within the conservative base that yes, that is the case. and paul ryan has not been out front enough explaining his stance on medicare and some other entitlement issues and conservatives are worried that he's not getting the right message out. >> okay. perry, 38 days to go until the election. mitt romney is behind in all nine battle ground states, at least according to the latest nbc news "wall street journal" marist polls. is there a single strategy that will reverse enough of those states, or do they take them state by state? >> i think they're taking it overall. the big thing they're looking for is the debates. there's a good "new york times" story looking at the fact the romney campaign is looking to find some way to get the president off his game. they used the term actually make him look quote unquote smug during the debates. they want to use the debates as a moment to sort of change the polls in every state around the country. that's the next big moment for them to really change what we're seeing so far, which is that
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obama is right now leading in a way. he's leading by almost as much he was leading in 2008 right now which is very surprising considering how close this campaign has been most of the time. >> i know exactly the article. it's right here. look at all the yellow high highlighting stuff i got in this article. what is the general theme, perry, being struck by the president's team on all this? how much debate prep is he actually doing? >> i'll be honest. i love the reporters who wrote that article, they're good reporters, i don't necessarily believe the fact. the president is saying he doesn't have time to debate. he's very busy. i have no doubt he's very busy. that said, the obama campaign knows these debates could be the only chance romney has left. so i have no doubt the president's been studying very carefully how to answer. what they're saying is they're trying to make sure the president is known for being a little long-winded. they want to make sure to keep him short and make sure his answers are tight. the other thing they have to avoid, romney was very good in the republican debates and he was very good at getting under the skin of rick perry and newt
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gingrich. that's something obama has to watch out for as well. >> erin, you've been in ohio. unemployment there is at 7.2% which is better than the national average. the president's leading in the latest polls there. so how concerned is the romney camp about that state, and what is their plan? >> there is some serious concern in the romney campaign and in republicans throughout ohio that president obama is in much better shape. they point to cleveland where there is a very heavy population base, manufacturing is big there and the auto bailout really did help industries up there. and some of the thinking goes, if president obama can turn out a lot of people in northern ohio, it's over in ohio. and they might be best to look elsewhere. now, the romney campaign is taking a harder line against china than ever before. he's always been very strong against china. so that's a message that they think will resonate in ohio. another thing we heard from mitt romney tempering his tax plan, saying he is planning to cut
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exemptions so people can't look for as big of a tax cut. they're changing the message in ohio to see what they can do to pull even with obama. >> what is the absentee voting going on right now in 30 states. you look at north carolina and nevada as we see here. is there any conventional wisdom or who the early voting might help in swing states? >> in general the early voters are helpful to the president because the president's ahead right now. so he's basically banking in votes early before election day. the other thing is, the obama campaign wants to make sure people vote early so on election day themselves the people who already voted can spend time organizing and making sure their friends, friends who don't necessarily care about investigate as much, the idea if you voted october 2 and you can spend the rest of the time getting your friends to turn out. that said there's not a lot of undecided voters voting three weeks early. romney still has time if he does well in the debates to convince some new people to vote for him, people who have not already
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voted early and who are still going to watch the debates and try to figure out who they like the best among the candidates. >> on the heels of that assessment on who generally will fare better, erin, we saw the first lady encouraging college students in iowa to vote early yesterday. how much is the obama campaign banking on early voting to help the president get re-elected? >> they're going to these college campuses because that is the big concern, that the youth vote sure -- the youth rather of the country very enthusiastic about the president. but will they turn out? that's why we're seeing the first lady an the president going again and again and again to these college campuses so they can make sure that they have these votes and get them out early. that is a very important part of their strategy. >> quickly, perry, i want to talk about the upcoming debate. newt gingrich who was on morning joe friday. he said this about mr. romney. listen here. >> do you think that he has the ability? >> yes. having debated him 15 or 17 times, he's a pretty good debater. he's a better debater than any
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of our nominees. >> so perry, some analysts say mitt romney needs to connect on some sort of a hail mary in the debates to turn things around. is that putting too much pressure on him? >> he does have a lot of pressure on him. right now the numbers are showing he's behind about three or four points nationally. the other thing, gallup research showed last week that essentially twice in the last 50 years has a candidate basically been losing before the debates but then after the debates been winning. it's very hard to change the dynamic completely. as we've seen in 2008, the president may know debates are not his number one skill. he's pretty good at them. it's not clear he's going to make a bill gap to let romney win. >> thank you both. let's go more from iowa. early voting is happening now. good day to you, jamie. what can you tell us about the overall sentiment you're getting
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in iowa? >> reporter: alex, good morning. early voting has been under way since thursday. and i sense a lot of excitement about it. particularly among democratic voters. now, here's the thing. election officials tell me that it's democrats who typically vote early. that's beginning to change. republicans here in iowa are mailing out early votings as well i'm told. but still the energy is really coming from democrats when it comes to early voting. i think we have a little bit of sound of michelle obama yesterday at the university. i know you were just talking about these college visits. at the university of northern iowa in cedar falls yesterday. it's apropos. >> you've got a whole month to make it happen. a whole month to vote! as i tell my children, don't procrastinate. no procrastination. make it happen. do it today. >> and there it is. . and here was the really
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interesting thing, alex. is that as soon as the event ended, obama volunteers led the students from the arena to a nearby satellite voting location that had been established by the campaign on the campus of the university where about 200 people voted by the time i wrapped shooting my footage there yesterday afternoon. so a useful event for the obama campaign. and again, a way to bank votes early, particularly among students who they want to be free on election day to volunteer and help get out the vote. >> you know, it's kind of interesting though, jamie. people are starting to vote before we've even had our first debate in this election between the two candidates head-to-head. so you got to wonder if some people would rather have waited until maybe thursday to send in their votes. these must be people who have known for a long time and that's it. >> well, yeah. you raise a good point. this is a calculus that the obama campaign seems to be depending on, is that they can mitigate some of the risk of a bad debate, perhaps, by banking
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these votes early to make sure that they can build it up. and they point to a statistic, alex, that in 2008 obama lost the election on election day here in iowa. but won overall in iowa because of votes that the campaign had banked prior to the election day on early voting. >> jamie, thank you. in a moment, shady voter signups in the sunshine state. how did the gop in florida act after suspicious voter registrations turned up? we have the reports next on "weekends with alex witt." jack, you're a little boring. boring. boring. [ jack ] after lauren broke up with me, i went to the citi private pass page and decided to be...not boring. that's how i met marilyn... giada... really good. yes! [ jack ] ...and alicia. ♪ this girl is on fire [ male announcer ] use any citi card
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now to more on the shifting
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story on the deadly attack on the u.s. costs in libya. american officials called the assault in libya "a distribueli and organized attack." joining me now former ambassador to morocco. good to see you. >> hi, alex. >> so how big is this type of a reversal? how unusual is it? >> well, it's very unusual. and it frankly was a shame that the administration went out on the talk shows last sunday with ambassador rice to convey a message that turned out to be incorrect. because the real issue here is the danger that still exists in north africa towards our embassies because of the breakout of al qaeda in the magreb and an sill air terrorist groups in somalia and eastern libya that are probably somewhat responsible for the somewhat spontaneous effort to take out the ambassador because they had
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notice of a few days or whatever that he was going to be in benghazi. that's the real danger here. these attacks have been going on throughout north africa for almost two years. >> but mark, the fact that the white house i mean some would say they rushed to get out there and make statements and give an assessment of what happened. did they feel pressure to do that because of the nature of who was killed in this attack? this was an ambassador, the highest-ranking person in a foreign country representing the united states of america. >> well, there's no doubt. and chris was a wonderful ambassador. and i don't want to den greigrar take away from his loss. the fact of the matter is, when a person like ambassador rice goes out on the sunday talk shows, she's put out there because the white house communications operation puts her out there and gives her her talking points. so it wasn't so much the fact that she was as much responsible as much as someone in the white house decided to jump the gun. and clearly they decided to jump
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the gun probably for any number of reasons, one of which may be because the narrative that this was a spontaneous attack was far more appealing than to make the argument -- to have to admit that al qaeda's running rampant or potentially running rampant in benghazi. and the ambassador was not adequately protected. and number two, domestic political drama to take on mr. romney for jumping the gun and accusing the administration for not being protective of the ambassador adequately as well. >> okay. so in reference to that angle, the lack of security which by any estimation is appalling. i mean, i've had all sorts of analysts come on that say it was absolutely inexcusable. how damning might that be now? we're talking foreign policy. this is an area where the president, with regard to the election, felt pretty comfortable. and felt like he wouldn't have -- there wouldn't necessarily be an opening for the romney camp. does this give the romney camp a
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legitimate opening? >> no. i don't think so. because i've been ambassador in a region where it's been very volatile. these are bureaucratic decisions. and ambassador stevens made the decision to go to benghazi. what problem may emerge here, he went to benghazi with inadequate security. we have to understand that our embassies are not protected and our ambassadors are not protected by the marines or by u.s. personnel all the time. they're protected by the local government officials that provide that security. and chris was known as someone who didn't like the envelope of security around him. i think the real issue here is not so much whether or not the president or the administration was at fault, but whether or not the senior management level at the state department did not do their job adequately to make sure that chris was adequately protected going into a zone that was clearly -- all of us knew was dangerous from the get go. after all, the british ambassador had just come under attack in benghazi a month and a
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half before chris lost his life >> yes. how do americans separate the facts from politics though, mark, in these kinds of situations from either side? the white house or the romney camp and republicans? >> well, i think that in some respects the administration made a mistake by going out ahead of having the knowledge and the facts. so that clearly they deserve some criticism. but the fact of the matter is that mr. romney has constantly jumped the gun here on criticizing the president who by all accounts, who by all accounts when it comes to dealing with terrorism has probably done job one better than any president before him, particularly the last president, george bush, when it came to taking out al qaeda operatives. and the fact of the matter is that we now have a new front in north africa against al qaeda. so the administration is going to have to focus far more resources there than before. they've been focused in iraq, they've been focused in al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. but what's happening in mali and eastern libya, and the fact that
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perhaps the administration needs to refocus its energies on securing the victory that they want to claim victory for in libya, this is more -- all the more reason why perhaps this is a good time for the administration to re-examine what it has not done in libya. >> okay. ambassador mark ensberg, good to see you as always. thank you. straight ahead suspicious republican voter registrations in florida. the fallout next here on "weekends with alex witt." with the spark cash card from capital one,
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now the republican national committee is playing damage control over this issue after a firm it was paying to register new gop voters across the country has been linked to hundreds of suspicious registration forms in florida. potential fraud in this stack of florida voter registration forms. 106 of them flagged by the supervisor of elections in palm beach county. >> there were a lot of signatures that appeared to possibly be common. and there was a lot of missing information. >> reporter: among the problems? a voter whose home address was listed at this shell gas station. another at a land rover dealership. nbc news has learned that eight florida counties are now investigating reports of hundreds of suspicious registration forms. all of them believed to have been submitted by employees of the same political consulting firm, strategy allied consulting. the firm was paid $3.1 million
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this year by the republican national committee. its mission? to register gop voters in five battle ground states. the rnc, seeking to contain the fallout, has abruptly fired the firm. >> when we found out about it we took immediate, bold steps to sever our ties with this firm. we will no longer be doing business with them. >> reporter: the allegations seem to parallel charges against akorn, the liberal activist group that republicans accuse of fraudulently registering voters in 2008. but nathan sprule, a gop consultant who runs allied strategic consulting says he's the victim of what he called a few bad apples whom he hired to recruit gop voters. >> the allegations that our company in some way is involved in voter fraud is jous rageous and offensive. and it arranges me when anyone in this country commits voter fraud. >> reporter: his firm tuesdayed on craigslist for gop canvassers and hired over 5,000 workers.
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he says all were background checked and had to watch this training video. >> it is illegal to modify, change, or falsify. >> reporter: election experts say hiring low-wage workers to register voters is fraught with risk. >> it's a low-paying job. there's not a lot of oversight. there's certainly the potential in that system for individuals to commit fraud. >> reporter: now state election officials told nbc news on friday that they've asked the florida department of law enforcement to conduct a state-wide criminal investigation here to determine if there was a pattern of misconduct, a sign this controversy may not be going away anytime soon. >> you want to bet? i agree. thank you so much, michael. wednesday night at 9:00 eastern it's the first of three presidential debates. you can see the showdown right here on msnbc. and the obama campaign's orchestrating a huge effort to organize 3200 debate watch parties across the country. the ratings for the debates are expected to be huge. but can they match the levels in
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2008? the first debate then drew 52.4 million viewers. the numbers for the second debate jumped to 63.2 million then fell back to 56.5 million for the last debate. but if you'll recall the debate between sarah palin and joe biden, it outrated them all with an audience of about 70 million, the second most-watched debate of all-time. the reagan-carter debate in 1980 remains the highest-rated debate with 80.6 million viewers. [ male announcer ] this is anna, her long day teaching the perfect swing begins with back pain and a choice. take advil, and maybe have to take up to four in a day. or take aleve, which can relieve pain all day with just two pills. good eye. look! she wears the scarlet markings! [ man ] out! your kind is not welcome here! nor your odd predilections! miracle whip is tangy and sweet, not odd. [ man ] it's evil! if you'd try it, you'd know.
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pope went on trial today for allegedly stealing documents and leaking them to a reporter. backyard soil samples in detroit are being tested to see if jimmy hoffa is buried there. a renoir painting bought at a flea market just for $7 will not go on auction this weekend as planned. that was because authorities say it was stolen more than 60 years ago. the fbi is trying to find out who pilfered that piece. and the pet cemetery in a new york city suburb has become the first animal burial ground to be listed on the national register of historic places. the hartsdale cemetery is being recognized for its architect and social history. those are your top five headlines. president obama and mitt romney will finally be facing each other in an arena that has seen some of the best and worst performances from our presidential candidates and their running mates.
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>> there is no soviet domination of eastern europe and there never will be under a ford administration. >> there you go again. are you better off than you were four years ago? >> senator, you're no jack kennedy. >> who am i? why am i here? >> that last one went on to "snl" infamy. joining me is nbc news historian and author michael, in the eyes of the voters what is it that wins the debate? is it one great line some of which we just played or a steady argument for your positions? >> a great line can help. for instance, almost anyone who will stop watching that debate between reagan and carter in 1980 had in their ears that line "are you better off than you were four years ago." but that wouldn't have worked if reagan had not spent the rest of the debate making that case. >> you make a good point there. how about this question? who was the greatest debater?
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>> well, you don't have to go far. i think if you look at reagan's performance in 1980, if i were advising mitt romney i would say watch that again and again. because what reagan managed to do was criticize an incumbent president quite harshly to his face but do it in a kindly way. there were 10% roughly of the voters who were undecided before that debate. they liked what they saw. they almost all shifted to reagan. that's why he won by that landslide. >> you know, interesting you bring that up. because reagan is traditionally seen as being a kind person. but how much do you think his success had to do with that element or the fact that he knew how to perform in public? he was comfortable doing it. >> ronald reagan knew the way he looked from every single direction so that when he made a gesture on camera he knew how that would come across on tv. for that carter was no match. >> okay. let's take a look at the chart we just brought up there from gallup. it shows how polls changed over the course of the debates in some of the most memorable
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elections. have any races in your estimation, michael, been won or lost solely in the debates? >> well, aside from the reagan-carter -- that was a special case because there was only one. it was ten days before. you showed the beginning, alex, of that terrible faux-pas saying the -- gerald ford probably would have won it without that faux-pas. the numbers here for 1960. we had john f. kennedy who gained three percentage points after that performance that he gave while richard nixon continuously lost ground thereafter. the story goes that it was kennedy's tan, his youthful look that won him the first televised debate. do you think that's the full story? >> i think that's part of an lore. i think much more was this. before that first debate john kennedy was thought of as a young, not very distinguished absentee senator, junior senator from massachusetts debating
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against the vice-president of the united states who had stood up to kruschev. this marvelous debater. kennedy was able to not only match nixon but exceed him. people began to think of him as a possible president. >> are debates necessary for the democratic process? have the best debaters proven to be then the best presidents? >> they have in one sense. and that is one of the most important things you want from a president is someone who if he has to make a tough decision can go to americans and say, this may be unpopular with you but let me try to explain it, explain why it's the right thing to do. if a president doesn't have that he's not going to serve very well and the debates are a test of that. >> what about as we look ahead to wednesday night with mitt romney trailing in the polls, the fact that he is sharing the stage with the president of the united states, does this offer a first-time candidate, not first time but in his case but someone who gets all the way to the end there, does it offer that person the credibility and potential
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bump in the polls just for having shown up and being there at the debate? >> absolutely. because you'll see this guy on the level with an elected president of the united states. that's why lyndon johnson in 1964 and richard nixon as president in 1972 went through huge machinations to make sure there would be no debates. they didn't want to give their opponents that kind of an edge. >> so as you look at history, what has worked and what has not, what do you, michael, see as being the keys to success for each of these two candidates come wednesday? >> well, in barack obama's case assuming that he is leading, essentially do no harm. people have a fairly well-developed view of who he is and what he will say. mitt romney, the degree of difficulty for him in this debate is about 9 out of 10. because he's got to make a critique of the administration, look like a potential president, do this kindly, and do all this in 90 minutes is not a long period of time. so he's got so much he has to do at once. that would be something that
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even a very great political natural would have a hard time doing. >> so then the sense to you is that he has more to prove or can he also abide by the do no harm and come out of it unscathed and perhaps get that bump just for showing up? >> this is the problem. because if he does no harm, presumably his lag in the polls, five to seven points, will remain. he has to use this first debate, which is the one that most people are going to remember and notice, to essentially move public opinion. that's a tough thing to do. >> okay, michael, always a pleasure. thank you so much. >> same here, be well, alex. how do you feel, no place like home and no soup for you. joining me now a retail and economics analyst. with a welcome to you. there's a good news with the consumer sentiment numbers. those are the highest they've been in about four months now. what do you acontribute rise to? >> you're right. consumer sentiment has been extremely high. numbers came out yesterday. they were at 78.3%.
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that's up from 74.3% last month. and really has three factors to do with this rise. first of all, consumers are feeling better about the stocks. stocks are rising. also property values are rising. and gas prices are starting to regulate. but with that said, economists are saying we still have this fragile recovery. gdp is growing at a sluggish rate of 1.3%. and economists are saying that the sluggish growth is going to continue into third quarter. >> okay. that does present a problem. there's a mixed bag of news when it comes to new home construction and all the sales. what's the latest you're seeing? >> new home sales were down 4.3%. they missed estimates. they came in at 373,000. economists expected that to be at 380. but home prices are actually up. at 257,000, around there. and they are -- actually economists are expecting that to
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spawn home repair scores to have that sort of ripple effect. >> what about home improvement stores? they're seeing a boom. >> boom is an understatement. so home repair for example online back in september had more traffic in sales than back to school retailers. and the mom and pop as well as the big box retailers are seeing the effect of this. for example, home depot. when they reported out earnings last month, they came in at $1.5 billion. >> huge. >> that's the best it's been in five years. >> yes. not such good news for soup fans. apparently those are dwindling. campbell's soup, the classic, the one that we all grew up with, they're having troubles. >> right. well, sam bell's soup is closing down one of their oldest plants in sacramento, displacing 700 workers. now, they've been trying to revamp their image, bring in a younger look and feel. they do have product -- they have brand extension with their products. but they also tried to acquire both house farms which is a
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juicemaker for $1.5 billion. didn't help. soup consumption has been down 13% over the last decade. and we're probably going to see more of that as campbell's soup as we continue through the year. >> at least it's wintertime. people want soup then, i hope. thank you so much. my buddy craig melvin is here with a preview of what's coming up next. what you got? >> hey there, alex. i love soup. i hope it comes back. >> i do, too. >> with everyone playing the expectations game with the upcoming presidential debates, we are going to talk to mitt romney's former debate coach to find out what the republican nominee is doing behind closed doors this weekend. also, there is someone that we have neglected to talk about in covering the presidential race so far. i will tell you who the real elephant in the room is for 2012. plus the very latest from the campaign trail coming up 2:00 eastern right here on msnbc, alex. >> i won't even take off the microphone. i'll just sit here and watch. thank you very much, craig melvin. next with the big three, who has more to lose in next week's
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presidential debates? you're watching "weekends with alex witt." ge, often for less. that's one smart board. what else does it do, reverse gravity? [ laughs ] [ laughs ] [ whooshing ] tell me about it. why am i not going anywhere? you don't believe hard enough. a smarter way to shop around. now that's progressive. call or click today. [ grunting ] droid does. and does it launch apps by voice while learning your voice ? launch cab4me. droid does. keep left at the fork. does it do turn-by-turn navigation ? droid does. with verizon, america's largest 4g lte network, and motorola, droid does. get $100 off select motorola 4g lte smartphones like the droid razr.
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let's move on to the big three in today's topics. poll position t minus four days and best week worst week. we'll bring in the big three panel now. national reporter for the atlantic, democratic strategist and republican strategist and msnbc contributor. welcome, ladies. glad to have you all with me. molly, i'll begin with you. topic one here poll position. look at these numbers from ohio. we have mr. romney down by as many as 10 points. and he's down in all nine recent nbc swing state polls. are they openly concerned in the romney camp about this? i mean, how are they couching all this? what kind of a spin can they put on it that's positive? >> you know, i was with romney in ohio this past week and also sought president there. and they're not openly acknowledging it. privately they will admit that they know they are down. so they're not in complete denial. but you do hear a lot of
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defensiveness from the romney camp, a lot of sort of see no evil, refusal to admit that things are actually as bad as they are, a lot of sort of from the audiences at these events as well, the romney supporters you hear a lot of blaming the media for the condition that he's in. and you know, it really seems like unless they are more willing to admit the hole they're in they're going to have trouble getting out of it. >> i'd like to know what they are saying in private. do you have any intel on that? or is it still private? >> well, just that they can see what's happening. they know that it's not all roses and sunshine. they don't really believe that they are secretly winning and there's actually been some kind of conspiracy to cover it up. >> susan, we have mitt romney who's down there in the state of north carolina where there's a 9.7% unemployment. he's down in nevada where there's a 12.1% jobless rate. would you think this is where the misery index would be the highest? and with mr. romney still being behind, do you deduce that something's wrong with the campaign machinery here?
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it would seem that the romney camp just is not like walking and talking and chewing gum at the same time. there seems to be something out of sync if they can't pull up the numbers here. >> well, the numbers should be closer. and i think what you're referring to is the fact that they have not stayed on a steady message of the economy. they see an opportunity when it comes to foreign affairs and they've been jumping at it. but when they do that they also lose their core message and the korean they believe that obama should be replaced with romney, which is the economy. so they need to stay very focused. they also need to provide some specifics now. now is the time. we have the debate coming up. he's got to get and show the american public how he's going to make their life better, how he's going to get them jobs. >> so what is it about the campaign advisers? who are the people that are telling him to in the wake of the libya attack and the like and the reversal now coming out from the white house that they say, okay, jump on this, just in a negative way to try to bring down president obama rather than focusing on where he does have
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some strength, which is in the economy? >> well, it's not that their tactic is 100% wrong when you see a vulnerability like what we saw with the president obama in libya, and how he's handled that thus far. but again, he has to stay on message. they should be doing that through surrogates. they should be raising the issues but it should be mitt romney who's constantly talking about the economy. >> now at the same time with this, what do you think has lifted the obama camp and could it all wash away with the debate on wednesday or even the next big unemployment number? we've got two more coming out before the the election, the first one this friday? >> there's a few things that are driving. this the first is mitt romney has been net unfavorable the entire year. so as people have learned more about mitt romney it just reinforce the fact that he's not popular. that's what you saw with the complete tailspin that he's in over calling veteran seniors and students victims and people he doesn't care about which obviously that happened a couple of weeks ago. that has really driven parts of
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these numbers. it's not just that he's unable to stay on a message. the message that he's on is not something that people like. middle class voters don't blame obama for the state of the middle class and for the state of the economy. he's the least likely to get blamed compared to corporations, president bush and congress and so on. and when they look at mitt romney's positions, or the positions he says in public or the positions he says in private like on the video, he's showing that he's just not interested in the middle class, he's not fighting for the middle class, he's more interested in the wealthiest. his own surrogates are saying best thing about mitt romney he helps me dock my yacht. his message is very openly a message that is more focused on only the wealthiest and not at all on the middle class. >> all right, guys. get to topic two here which is the t minus four days to the debate you molly in several articles i've read the president's team is trying to lower the expectation. does that work and will anyone buy it going in?
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>> i really doubt it. this expectations game, we all know how it's played. it gets to be sort of ridiculous self-parody. you had someone from the obama campaign saying this week the president might fall off the stage. i think the part of the problem with this narrative that's developed that romney is really falling behind and that he's in such a big hole is i think that makes the expectations that much higher for the president. if roo something to increase his stature, because that's the biggest thing for a challenger in a debate, so to look presidential, look like he belongs on that stage, along with the president or could be the president. i don't think people buy that president obama is some kind of fumbling fool, especially given the lead that he's taken in the polls. >> how about, margie, how much pressure is on the president? he's ahead in all the polls. should he just strive to do no harm? >> no, i think the president is not taking anything for granted. i think the race can certainly change. while the race has obviously
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seemed to solidify in the last few weeks, it can certainly change at any moment. you have a lot of people who will be tuning into these debates. people who are now engaging for the very first time and really trying to make up their mind, the late deciders trying to check in. and i think any opportunity that the president has to talk to the american people, to talk about his vision, to talk about the real contrast between the two candidates, is one that he's going to take. >> how about this, susan. there are those who would suggest that mitt romney needs to throw a hail mary pass to bring his poll numbers up. what do you think about that strategy? >> i don't think he necessarily has to hit -- has to use a hail mary pass. what he needs to do is actually this is the perfect time to roll out his specific plans, to offer up some real tangibles that he will deliver to the american public. again, not hitting it out of the ballpark, that's not his style. if he tries too hard, he'll come off too forced. but i also think you should look out for watching him trying to get underneath the president's skin a little bit. because i think that's certainly a way to throw the president off his game. >> okay.
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next up, rating the week, the best and the worst of it. you're watching weekends with alex witt. we'll be right back. we made the right decision. so when we can feel our way through the newest, softest, and most colorful options... ...across every possible price range... ...our budgets won't be picking the style. we will. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. right now get $37 basic installation on all special order carpet. you're not just looking for a by house. eyes you're looking for a place for your life to happen.
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we are back with the big three right now. it is time for best week and worst week selections. my panel today, molly ball, margie omero, and susan del percio. susan, what are your picks in both categories? >> for the best week, i gave it to bill clinton. with the global clinton initiative, you had both mitt romney and president obama handing him praises. i don't think we've seen a republican and democrat agreeing on much besides that this week. and for the worst week, it's u.n. ambassador to the united nations, susan ryce. he was either not included in some of these briefings, which would be troublesome, or just thrown under the bus when she went out on the sunday shows, explaining that this was not a planned attack, and we now know it was a terrorist attack in libya. >> do you think anything's going to happen with that, with susan
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rice? do you think she could potentially lose her job or no? >> i don't think she'll lose her job, but i don't think we'll be seeing her much in the upcoming months. >> molly, best and worst? >> i'll give best week to todd akin, the republican senate candidate out in missouri. the deadline passed this week for him to withdraw from the race. he was under heavy, heavy pressure from so many republicans to get out. they say they couldn't possibly win. he stuck it out, he knew they'd come around and they'd give him their money and their support when they didn't have a choice, and sure enough, that's exactly what's happening. you have a lot of republicans magically changing their mind now that they can't get him out of there. and for worst week, i'll have to go with mitt romney. this is the week that we really saw this narrative solidify that he is just, he's down and out. and when i was with him in ohio, i was looking for signs that he's doing something to turn it around. that he knows what he wants to do to get out of it, and i'm just not seeing those signs. >> and your article in the atlantic certainly gave me a
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clue that you were going to go with that for the worst week. i got that one. okay, margie, how about yours? >> for best week, i'm going to go with women voters. i wrote a piece on "huffington post" about ten days ago. you've really seen this since, that women are really driving the surge in obama's polling numbers. a double digit, at times a ten or higher gender gap. and when a democrat leads and a democrat benefits from a high gender gap, then a democrat wins. it's higher than average that we see in presidential campaigns. >> okay. worst? >> paul ryan. paul ryan, he -- you know, he hasn't really changed his debate at all. he's not helping in wisconsin. >> okay. ladies, thanks so much. susan, margie, molly, appreciate it. see you back here tomorrow at noon eastern. but stay with us, craig melvin is in the house. he's up next. i'm alex witt. have a great day. thor's couture gets the most rewards of any small business credit card. your boa! [ garth ] thor's small business earns double miles on every purchase, every day! ahh, the new fabrics, put it on my spark card. [ garth ] why settle for less?
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